Super-Mega Apocalyptic Misery Farm On-The-Road Review: Aftermath!

Pairs well with: the blood of rival gangs mixed in with some post-apocalyptic moonshine.
Brutus rating: 8/10 for backstabbing


It’s almost a year ago now that UFOs were last sighted in the skies over the Misery Farm for our second play through a Watch the Skies event, and in that time an awful lot has happened. The world turned. Our Prime Minister was accused of the kind of scandal that satirists dream of (#PigGate #NeverForget), and America lost its collective shit and voted for an orange balloon in a wig to run as Republican presidential nominee. Our long-time RPG matriarch, occasional guest correspondent and one-time GNN news reporter has had a small “human” baby (All Hail).

Oh, and the apocalypse went down.

Our story today really starts sometime in March. Zane Gunton, organiser of Bob and Lizzy’s first Watch the Skies (and indeed their first Megagame experience) had another game in the works and was looking for teams of three to live out what happens in the South of England after the world has ended. Aftermath is set some time after capitalism has fallen, society has broken down, and the snows of a winter long enough to do Westeros proud have finally started to melt.


Bob, Lizzy and Briony practically fell over themselves in excitement once it dawned on them that finally, after all these years, this was their chance to live out their mad, anarchist, Amazonian death-warrior fantasies. They’d survive the apocalypse and they would do it in true style, god dammit.[i]

This Megagame was hosted, unlike our two previous experiences, somewhere actually pretty accessible. It was in the centre of a town, in an large bunker-like room. The good people at Southampton Guildhall would probably resent that comparison but they’re the ones with a shabby basement-level ‘suite’. Rumour has it that the room was one of the more expensive parts of the endeavour, but where better to host the Aftermath of the apocalypse than a subterranean grotto?

It even came with a passably-stocked bar, which let us buy booze more cheaply than normal at the very reasonable and restrained time of around 1pm (with the excuse that red wine looks a bit like the blood of your enemies). They could clearly tell that we weren’t the kind of, fancy, business clientele that normally meet in the city centre’s guild hall. Not sure how, but it might have had something to do with the (fake) blood smeared across our faces or the leaves stuck in our hair (what? That’s just how we normally wake up on Saturdays.)


We walked in bright and early (so, so early), into a really well set-up room. Tables were covered in maps and there was a lot less prep to do beforehand than previous Watch the Skies events. Bob nearly lost her mind when she saw that the maps were proper Ordnance-Survey ones because that bitch is crazy and really, really loves maps.

To get into character we started by greeting everyone who came near us with a cheery smile and the phrase “death to man”. Of course, the only people allowed to approach our table at the beginning were control, who quickly pointed out that they weren’t male at all but just nebulous god-like beings there to impart wisdom and make the game work. They escaped our wrath.

The next person who came by our table was the event photographer who, rather than being terrified by our sharpened nails (yes really) and spatters of gore was deeply entertained and gave us badges emblazoned with the motto ‘Stop Harrassment in Gaming’[i]. Which was lovely, but didn’t really convey the kind of terror we were hoping to inspire. Luckily we could let our barbaric blood-thirst flow free once the game started.

DSC_0690_Fotor.jpgOur theme was, to put it mildly, heavily influenced by raging death cults. The apocalypse hit us hard (as it had everyone) and driven us to some rather extreme methods of survival. Old Lady Lizard (Lizzy) had amassed a group of female followers and preached to them about the cause of the end-times: not just capitalism but its patriarchal roots. Death, destruction and madness brought Nameless B (Briony) and Crazy Bob (Bob) into the fold and, in our insanity, we concluded that the only reasonable response was retribution and vengeance to the male puppets of patriarchy for bringing about disaster.

Gameplay was actually really good, and one of the best ones we’ve experienced in a Megagame yet. Although it took us maybe a turn to get the hang of things, it was actually quite simple. We had cards representing resources and people, and it was our job to use them in as creative and effective a way as we could. Given cards representing groups of survivors who’d joined our cause, we named them “The Valkyries”, “The Matriarchs”, “The Harpies” etc. We had a great time.

DSC_0673_Fotor.jpgWe could place cards on our own board to determine what we’d do locally in our home base of Arundel Castle (a real castle about an hour’s drive from where we live and an excellent defensive fortress)[ii]. A controller would come round and together we’d explain and work through what the units were doing, be it gathering supplies, fortifying the castle, or cutting down trees. ‘Housekeeping’ was also an option. An option which we ignored.

Resolutions were conducted using a method we can only describe as ‘Blackjack’. A controller would decide what kinds of numbers we’d need to aim for, what difficulty we were at, and we’d play a mini round of Blackjack. This was great as not only did it combine elements of luck and personal decision-making, but Blackjack is Bob’s favourite betting game.

Bob: We’d better play it safe and hold it there.
Lizzy: That doesn’t sound like us.
Bob: (shocked) Wait, you’re right! That doesn’t sound like us! HIT ME!

DSC_0692_Fotor.jpgThe other main thing to do in a turn was, of course, to leave the castle and go out into the surrounding area to kill, maim, and loot. This was done via more cards (that represented our bands of survivors, our supplies, any weaponry we might have, etc) and written instructions, complete with details like co-ordinates of where we were heading. After a few misunderstandings and mis-readings (controllers are, after all, only human) Bob took to writing the instructions in block capitals with copious underlining.

This was where all the maps came in. Our tables were each supplied with a map of an area in the South of England, along with markers describing some local information. If we wanted to go somewhere, we had to decide where, how, and how long it would take. This more realistic approach is one of the ways in which the gameplay was really intriguing. We couldn’t just make up places we were going, or be vague, we had to actually choose somewhere real. We had to consider terrain (roads, in the post-apocalyptic South, are clogged with abandoned cars and near-useless), buildings, and which places would have the kinds of supplies we were after without being too full of homicidal locals.

DSC_0689_FotorAll of which worked in our favour during what’s now being lauded as ‘The Great Victory’.

Apparently our approach of raiding parties, killing sprees and general unwillingness to civilly interact with our neighbours had not gone unnoticed. A lot of the rest of the room (playing as the government (‘Gold Command’) and local law-enforcement (‘Silver Command’) had actually done a pretty good job, it turned out, of trying to bring society back together. There were regular news reports on the radio (that signified when a new ‘turn’ in the game began), apocalypse-proof farming initiatives, safe-zones, and capitalistic enterprises springing up all over the damn place. The army and the police had, pretty quickly, been despatched to sort out the havoc going on around Arundel Castle.

Action shot: Gold command telling Silver command eliminate The Morrigan.

You know that shit is about to go down when half a dozen green-shirt controllers all surround your table at once with a couple of the guys from silver command. One (whom we recognised as the Military Advisor for France during our first Watch the Skies. His tactical skills had clearly helped him survive the great apocalypse) was wearing a police hat and a stern expression. Zane ‘Megagames’ Gunton himself broke the news that there were tanks and approximately 200 people approaching the castle fortifications.

Unluckily for us, we actually had no weapons beyond some mediaeval stuff we’d picked out from the armoury and some medical supplies. We’d sent our only rifles off with our original hunting party (who had never returned). The tanks were well-equipped and heavily outnumbered us.

The sole survivor of the hunting party. So crazy she’d been named by the controllers themselves.

Luckily for us, we were a band of insane warriors who had spent much of the previous turns erecting even more fortifications than the castle already had.  Briony had in fact insisted that we block the only susceptible part of the castle seen as we had some spare builders and a lot of trees lying around. Also, as a storm was raging in-game, we had brought all our survivors inside the castle walls and they were ready to dispense some guerrilla defensive tactics. Also, did we mention we had a fucking medieval castle. Those things have been around for literally years.

The poor attackers weren’t quite sure where to start. Here’s a transcript of how some of that went down[iii]:

“Er, we get take up a good position and start firing at the castle.”
“You can’t just say you take up a good position. Where?”
“Ok, er, here. This high ground. *gestures at map*”
“That’s more than two kilometres away. Your mortars would be useless”
“Oh. Er. Here then!”
“That’s inside our fortifications. That line there is our fortifications. It’s clearly labelled fortifications” (Controller: “They’re right, I watched them build them.”)
“Damn. Er. We start from the hill and start slowly approaching?”
“Ok. You’re walking slowly down a hill, towards our fortifications, in front of a great big castle?”
“Oh dear.”
“Did we mention it’s a castle?”

DSC_0758We did have a pretty damned defensible position. A lot of the plains on one side of the castle had been flooded, and we’d done a lot of work in fortressing-up the rest. We had also dispatched some particularly fervent warriors into the forest (hereafter known as Guerilla Warfare Woods) to stage slash-and-run attacks with medieval axes and some scalpels we’d nicked from a hospital.

A few excellent card-draws later (including a straight 21) the police were too afraid to approach and the army were losing people. They withdrew. We tallied up a few more on our death-count and drank to our own victory. It was a glorious time.

We had a really good time in general. We later found out that we were having some pretty incredible luck at drawing cards behind the scenes with the controllers as well as at our table. All just part of what can make a Megagame really exciting.

Hi, welcome to Arundel Castle. *turns to controller* We attack him.

Our isolationist approach did mean we didn’t get much interaction with the rest of the people in the room and thus had a fair bit of dead time as the poor controllers rushed around trying to resolve everybody’s plays at once. In fact, the first and only interaction we had with another party was a small band of traders cautiously approaching our table. The travellers were represented by one guy who we’d seen across the room talking to a lot of the other groups. Naturally, we immediately attempted to kill him. He got away (thanks to some unlucky card draws) but dropped some awesome stuff (stolen rum goes great with human flesh). He had then later alerted all of the other groups, and silver command, to our hostility thus beginning their plotting against us.

Even team Madmax needed to do some serious planning.

We once heard someone run over to a table and say “Wait! I’ve just realised that that is the most suspicious thing I’ve ever heard. Did you say a unit of 29 old ladies walking by with zimmerframes?” which kept us amused for a while. Otherwise we didn’t find out much about what was going on in the greater game until the summaries at the end. We even heard the same problems from some people who were actively trying to find other groups, so perhaps the game was spread out over slightly more land than was ideal or the players were wildly under-estimating how far and how efficiently they could travel.


The summaries at the end are always one of the best parts, bringing together the stories of what had been happening for all of the different groups, and really giving everyone an understanding of how their actions actually affected everyone else.

Team Apple. Appling away.

Some of our favourite other-group themes included the return of capitalism from Team Apple (who brought WiFi and radiation-resistant technology in the form of the ‘iPocalypse’ to the wasteland), the cannibals who only managed to kill around 6 people (psh! Our kill count was nearer 70), and a group who were on a stag party when the apocalypse happened, and just kept on partying. Their table was decked out with Hawaiian flowers, cocktail glasses and pineapple juice, and a large part of their end-game was devoted to throwing a party big enough to invite all the survival groups in the South. In the words of their controller, “their star is burning very brightly but I’m not sure about their long term strategy for survival,” which sounds like a nice way of saying ‘they’re playing a good game but they’re all going to die soon’.

DSC_0731.JPGGold command had apparently had a fantastic game, but the disconnect between what they were doing and what the survivors were doing was enormous. They had no idea of what we were doing and we had little idea of how well their mandatory ID cards and ‘education’ policies were going. Amusingly, the silver command in control of our area (whose attempted arrest of the Morrigan had gone so disastrously poorly) had decided that Gold Command were fascists and seceded from the government in the final turn.

Oh, and there was apparently a ‘Cult of Bee’ people.

Discussions with a controller. Yes, that is a death count on Lizzy’s arm.

As for your noble reporters, our game also finished on a pretty good note, though we felt a lot like the game had run out of time before really getting to the finishing point, especially as our final orders weren’t resolved before time was called. One, maybe two more turns and the shit would have really hit the fan. There was not just one, but two large groups of people heading towards Arundel Castle. The army had returned with reinforcements, and … a strange band of old ladies were on their way with homemade bombs. The two sides would, we assume, bump into each other and end up fighting each other instead.

This was particularly amusing news for us, since (predicting this kind of reprisal) we’d secretly abandoned the castle a couple of turns ago, and all of our forces were out raiding the towns and farms around Littlehampton[iv]. As a distraction Briony had spent several turns constructing some trebuchet’s for the inevitable second wave attack on the castle, and had left the builders there to (wo)man them. May as well get some medieval siege-killings in while the rest of our survivors were racking up the raiding party’s kill-count, right?

Organising your raiding parties should always be done with hands stained with the blood of your enemies.

We can’t thank the organisers and the controllers enough for putting up with our mad ways. It’s definitely an amazing Megagame, and one that we highly recommend to others if it happens again. We also can’t even begin to thank Zane’s wife for making apocalypse-proof cakes, which were distributed around the halfway point of the day. Those lemon drizzle cakes were boss.

The real winner, as always, is cake gaming.

The ‘tactical’ spillage of coffee over the flooded marsh land. Gee, Ordnance Survey maps are so realistic!

[i] And by ‘style’ we of course mean ‘soaked in blood’.

[i] Inspired by the case of Emily Garland in table-top gaming.

[ii] Not only is Arundel Cast a real castle, but it’s actually owned and sometimes lived in by an earl or duke or something. This pleased Bob immensely as the implication was that the Morrigan would have killed and eaten him in order to gain access to his sweet medieval armoury.

[iii] Drawn from not-at-all biased memory.

[iv] A plan which Briony had great difficulty with, since she was having a very hard time listening to her roleplaying side over her highly trained strategy-game side. BLOOD AND DEATH TO ALL, but you know, while maintaining an impregnable stronghold.

Super-Mega Interstellar Misery Farm on-the-Road Review: It’s Watch the Skies!

Brutus Rating: 7 out of 10 back-stabbings to the back.
Pairs Well With: Alien-enhanced protein shakes.


We here at the Misery Farm have once been told off by you our loyal readers for doing ‘play through’ style game reviews when it’s only the first time one of us have played a game. This is probably fair, since trying to gain an overall impression of a game while learning the rules and often losing horribly is not particularly easy. So you’ll be pleased to know that we, here, at the Misery Farm, are offering a super-experienced review of Watch the Skies! We have played it twice.

'We can't eat those cows. Thanks though' -India
‘We can’t eat those cows. Thanks though’ -India

For those who don’t know, WtS is a ‘megagame’ designed to be played by around 50 people. If you think setting up Eldritch Horror or Twilight Imperium is a ball-ache, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Firstly, you need a great big space, preferably with some kind of upper-story balcony and some smaller adjoining rooms. Then you need big maps, and tables, and lots of bits and pieces of game. And lots and lots of tea.


You also need a dedicated team of rules-explainers and –enforcers, who will basically herd the rest of the players to do the right thing at the right time (the Controllers). Usually these are also the organisers, and their state of being during the entire game appears to be one of high anxiety and stress. The first game we played in Southampton was organised by experienced controllers, and even they seemed close to breakdown at all stages. Our poor mates Charlie and Mac who organised the event this weekend didn’t stand a chance.

Your role as Controller: nervous blur
Your role as Controller: nervous blur

Teams represent countries, and are usually made up of four players; a Head of State to organise the others and divvy up resources, a scientist to develop exciting tech, a Foreign Secretary to sit on the UN council and hopefully avoid international disaster, and a military guy to explode stuff. Bonus points for dressing appropriately for your nation and role.

Oniony stereotype, 1967 Brigitte Bardot, Enthusiastic Suit, Les Mis with medals.

Up in the gallery sit the primary antagonists, the Grey Menace/aliens. Sightings have been rumoured for a while, but the public doesn’t know for sure that they exist. These guys might be good, they might be evil, they might be somewhere in between. All you know is that they’re showing up on Earth with alarming frequency, and they have some kind of mission. One final team is the Global News Network (GNN). They basically document what’s going on in the style of an international newsgroup, publishing a ‘newsletter’ as often as possible.

Bustling in early
Bustling in early

Bright and (very) early on Saturday morning, friends and acquaintances from all over the south of England gathered in a tiny village somewhere in the Oxford countryside for a good old-fashioned game of XCOM meets Model UN. Like the enthusiastic group of nerds that we are, everyone showed up early and eagerly, to the mild annoyance of the organisers who had barely had a chance to lay the flag-decked tables out. The aliens settled down in their balcony hideout, ready to watch the actions of the pathetic humans below them. While the humans obviously hoped for a peaceful outcome, they were not particularly comforted by the aliens’ Sith-Lord-meets-Borg-Queen aesthetic.

'Greetings earthlings, we come in peace'
‘Greetings earthlings, we come in peace’
Super Handsome Reporters
Super Handsome Reporters

Lizzy and Bob were there representing the Misery Farm and, appropriately, playing as the global news team along with their beautiful and masterful ex-Cthulhu-GM Emma. Early optimism and merriment was only slightly marred by the presence of China one table over, who had brought along Durian sweets and were now stinking the place out with their gassy, eggy odour.*

 By late-morning the game was in full swing. France was already mildly inebriated from their grape drinks ** while Britain’s main bribery tactic appeared to be biscuit-based.

'Would you like a biscuit?' -Britain
‘Would you like a biscuit?’ -Britain

In the newsroom stress was high. It turns out that pumping out fancy-looking and moderately-highbrow front pages every 45 minutes is not easy. Finding the ‘big stories’ every turn is a particular challenge when heads of state constantly vie for your attention in the hope of increasing their public relations, while neglecting to mention juicier but less marketable stories. Everyone is still denying the existence of aliens, and no amount of coaxing will get the truth out of them.

'The penguin has been the official bird of America since 2017' -US chief of science
‘The penguin has been the official bird of America since 2017’ -US chief of science

The USA was particularly guilty of trying to distract us from the real stories (as it is in real life, so it is in Watch the Skies), as in the same turn that they invaded Angola, attacked Madagascar, and publically announced the existence of aliens, they begged for a front-page picture announcing a new Holly-Bollywood film release (Hot Runnings is to be released in 2022, and will feature rising starlet Hannah Hendrix as a functionally-dressed heroine who dreams of Olympic success).

IMG_0637 IMG_0643

The team were getting pretty excited with our shiny printing press. Bob, ever the organised-one when it comes to avoiding her PhD work, had brought her laptop, a printer and made an excellent (if awkward to fiddle with) template for news stories. Over the course of the day we trotted out eight different editions of the GNN Times, printing out ten copies of each issue and distributing them around the room. By the second issue we even had the genius realisation of how far technology has come when we realised we could actually take photos of things going on in the room and feature them on our papers!

IMG_0653 IMG_0664 IMG_0667

By the afternoon it was more or less chaos around the room world. This is no jibe at the


organisers – it’s pretty much an inevitable result of gathering 50 people in one place and givingthem alien technology. China was selling their babies to aliens, Brazil was trading cows for better, beefier cows, and France sabotaged the British laboratory to stop them getting ahead. Trying to keep up with it all was nearly impossible, and our newsletters reflected this by getting sillier and sillier.

After USA officially and publically declared the existence of alien life even the weather report at the top of our paper went from “Global rain” and “Cloud cover” to “Who even cares anymore?”

Filler headline of the day: ‘Is the Queen a lizard alien? No.’

Our news-reporting tactics varied from actually occasionally being told about what the hell was happening from a few kind people to sneaking around and trying to eavesdrop for some excellent quotes.

BREAKING NEWS: “France is going bat-shit crazy” –President of France

Occasionally we would saunter up to a head of state to ask them what the haps were, and they’d casually reply “Oh yeah, nothing much. Someone just destroyed an alien base in Angola, though.” Which would leave us running back to the desk excitedly to knock Emma off the table and quickly type it all up.

IMG_0678 IMG_0680 IMG_0677

Eventually we were awarded a Pulitzer Prize for … something. We actually don’t know, and norIMG_0716 do the organisers, but it apparently felt like time that we got one. We even managed to snag an interview with the aliens, who convinced Senior Correspondent Emma of their peaceful aims a few minutes before launching a psy-ops mission which made half of Europe believe that entire cities (buildings and all) had been abducted. Probably not the best way to convince us of their sincerity. Brazil, the ‘nice guys’ of the day, were the only team to continue to believe that the aliens were actually peaceful. ‘“Everything probably fine!” –Brazilian President’, shouted the smaller headlines.

As the afternoon was coming to an end, China and the USA got bored and frustrated with the IMG_0723whole affair and not knowing what to do, so decided to nuke Brasilia. The whole room stopped and mouths were agape as the two defence ministers went rogue, and as even their heads of state froze and looked flabbergasted. Their reasons are still unclear, but Brazil was pretty upset considering they’d just built a theme park featuring alien-enhanced beef called ‘Brazil-Land’. When questioned, the USA claimed that it was because the aliens were communists, while China told us to go away as they’d created their own free and independent news media, which had already won 286 Pulitzer-equivalent prizes.

'Go away' - China
‘Go away’ – China

The game works on many levels. It’s role playing, it’s strategy, and it’s highly competitive. Alliances are made and broken as countries try to fulfil their secret objectives, and rumour, hearsay, and espionage tactics threaten to bring the whole thing down at any moment. Your ally from turn one might suddenly turn around and steal your research, or Russia might initiate a bioweapon attack on the aliens under the guise of returning the corpses shot down in air combat. Both of which happened, of course.

Japan's foreign secretary got so upset at how useless the UN were that he defected to GNN. As in real life, so it is in WtS!
Japan’s foreign secretary got so upset at how useless the UN were that he defected to GNN. As in real life, so it is in WtS!

All the same, it’s a lot like hard work. The stress is very real and exhausting. Toiling and planning for turn after turn only to fail an important dice roll at a crucial moment is incredibly frustrating. Worst of all, an effective costume pretty much demands high heels, which hurt like Hades after five hours of rushing around looking stern at heads of state.


At the end of the final round small summaries were given, and praise was given out to people in certain positions who had done particularly well. Dr Hates-Dice, Emma’s husband, was lauded as the best president the planet had seen, despite regular gaffes in what he’d said to the press (“We’re all tired and one of us is drunk” being particularly memorable). He had his face in the papers shaking hands with other heads of state twice and had been an excellent negotiator of pacts and treaties.

We earned out Pulitzer
We earned our Pulitzer

Meanwhile the overall best country turned out to be… Brazil! Despite having their capital nuked, they’d remained peaceful, resilient and friendly. Particularly to the aliens who, as it turned out, were actually quite nice apart from their anti-human prejudice.

IMG_0715Everyone applauded and collapsed and the wonderful beautiful organisers presented us with some beer which we gratefully crawled to after a hard day’s sky-watching. The beauty of the game continued to unravel for hours afterwards, as people discussed goings-on in different parts of the room across the day. So much happened over so many hours that it was impossible to have any idea of the full extent of what was happening at any one point. You might set something in motion at one point and have no idea of the consequences until hours later.

The first time we’d played Watch The Skies was amazing, this time was even better. Hard work, but amazing. Stay vigilant, humans. The next time it could be you.

                           IMG_0679 IMG_0645

*Apparently they tasted like cheese. Good work China.

** Fizzy grape juice in wine glasses.

We apologise for the quality of the photographs in this edition of Misery Farming. Bob’s point-and-click camera had an unfortunate case of early death and so we were forced to rely on an iPhone camera and prayer.  We blame Dr Photographer-Friend for forgetting to sign up.